We Need To Talk About HHS Secretary Tom Price’s Excessive Private Jet Trips

Hannah Bleau

We need to talk about Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. Some people may be mad at me for even bringing this up, but if Price were a Democrat, you can be darn sure conservatives would be all over this.

Price chartered jets for five different trips last week alone.

I should note, these weren’t personal trips. It was “official business.” However, HHS secretaries of the past would fly commercial, which as you know, saves thousands upon thousands of dollars.

The secretary’s five flights, which were scheduled between Sept. 13 and Sept. 15, took him to a resort in Maine where he participated in a Q&A discussion with a health care industry CEO, and to community health centers in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, according to internal HHS documents.

 

The travel by corporate-style jet comes at a time when other members of the Trump administration are under fire for travel expenditures, and breaks with the practices of Obama-era secretaries Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Kathleen Sebelius, who flew commercially while in the continental United States.

 

Price, a frequent critic of federal spending who has been developing a plan for department wide cost savings, declined to comment.

Again, I realize this report comes directly from Politico, and I’m certainly taking that into account. Here’s the deal: If he’s paying for this himself, more power to him. Keep it up. I don’t care. It’s HIS MONEY. But if taxpayers are paying for these trips– and I’m assuming we are– we have reason to care and reason to call him out. FLY COMMERCIAL.

An HHS spokesperson wouldn’t tell Politico who paid for the flights, but we do know the organizations that hosted him did NOT cover his travel expenses.

All three organizations that hosted Price last week — the Massachusetts-based health IT firm athenahealth, Goodwin Community Health Center in New Hampshire and the Mirmont Treatment Center in Pennsylvania — told POLITICO they did not pay for his flights or other travel costs.

HHS only provided this statement:

“As part of the HHS mission to enhance and protect the health and well-being of the American people, Secretary Price travels on occasion outside Washington to meet face to face with the American people to hear their thoughts and concerns firsthand,” an HHS spokesperson said, adding, “When commercial aircraft cannot reasonably accommodate travel requirements, charter aircraft can be used for official travel.”

I should note, there were, in fact, commercial flights that matched his travel needs.

Again. Let me make this crystal clear: I’m not saying Price is doing anything illegal, and if he’s paying for this himself, I have NO PROBLEM with it. I’m just sick of conservative politicians bragging about how fiscally responsible they are and turning around and spending thousands in taxpayer dollars on private jet trips five seconds later. I’m so sick of that. I mean, if he’s using tax dollars for these trips, it makes this flashback extremely awkward:

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Current and former staffers, speaking on the condition of anonymity, say Price has been taking private jets to travel domestically for months.

 

Ethics experts say the use of private charters by government officials, while legal, is highly dubious and in most cases a misuse of taxpayer funding.

 

“I can understand why the secretary might have to use a charter flight to get to a hurricane-devastated region, but Philadelphia is not one of those regions this year,” said Walter Shaub, who was director of the United States Office of Government Ethics until July. “I find it hard to believe he couldn’t find a suitable commercial flight to Philadelphia.”

 

“This wasteful conduct reflects disdain for the ethical principle of treating public service as a public trust,” said Shaub, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama. “Public office isn’t supposed to come with frivolous perks at taxpayer expense.”

I know Politico is using this piece as another way to slam the Trump administration, but the reality is, this isn’t a partisan issue. Most people who get power in Washington walk back on their principles, regardless of their political affiliation. That’s not an excuse. It’s just reality. I’m just sick of pretending it’s not happening. It is, and I’m over it. Walk the freaking walk, conservatives.